I will always remember three mistakes I made during the summer after I turned 18. My summer job was to select parts for shipment from the International Harvester central warehouse in Winnipeg to dealers across Western Canada.
Each warehouse worker received one or more computerized forms. These identified the product and indicated the number of items for each shipment. As a summer employee, I became jealous of the old-timers who got bigger jobs. The older, experienced guys walked into the supply area with a hundred items or more to fulfill. To obtain more challenging orders, I raced to complete the smaller tasks. One week, I almost lost my job. The boss told me I sent three incorrect orders to three dealerships supplying parts for tractors or other farm equipment. I quickly learned about my disability. I misread those long numbers because I sent the wrong spare parts. I had to learn fast. I could not make similar mistakes, for I needed the funds for tuition for the upcoming school year. Mistakes matter.
Mistakes come in many forms. Let’s examine two of them. Some make mistakes before their life’s work begins. Others make multiple errors during a training period. I love to contrast the mistakes two men made: Peter and Paul.
We follow Peter through repeated blunders and events. We love him for the spontaneous answer to Jesus’ question: “’Who do you say that I am?’ And Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ of God.’” Luke 9:20 How quickly Peter grasped the truth! Also, Peter was the only one of the twelve willing to step out in faith. He literally stepped onto boisterous waves, walking toward Jesus. We love him for being close to Christ. He wa one of the three on the Mount of Transfiguration. With Peter and James, Peter watched Jesus heal Jairus’ 12-year-old daughter.
But think of Peter’s mistakes! No one else received such a harsh rebuke, “Satan, get behind me!” Peter told Jesus not to walk toward his trial and death. No one else told a servant girl, “Woman, I don’t know him!” When he heard someone else say, “You are also one of them!” Peter responded angrily, “Man, I am not!” An hour later, another person was more direct. “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” Peter called down curses on himself, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” Luke 22:54-62 and Mark 14:66-72
Mistakes matter. Thankfully, Jesus knows how to deal with us at our weakest moments. Jesus brought Peter back to fellowship, asking three times, “Peter, do you love me?” Christ’s correction came in three times. “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep. Feed my sheep.” John 21:15-19
Paul made other kinds of mistakes, serious ones, before beginning a task. We meet him agreeing to the stoning of Stephen. Then he went from house to house in Jerusalem, arresting people for believing in the Messiah. However, Christ knew Paul’s deep desire for righteousness. Once Paul’s theological mistakes were corrected, he helped to change the world. Today, the book of Romans shows how much Paul had to offer; we still profit.
Yes, mistakes matter, and we can take comfort, as I did when my errors were pointed out to me, that there is redemption at the time we fall, when we have little faith, or when we are angry about the wrong thing. Christ’s work through the Holy Spirit is to convince us of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Learning from our errors and changing is the best time to say, “Mistakes matter.”
David Phillips, Interim Executive Director